GCX initiative aims to put India at center of Asia/ME cloud boom

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Reliance Communications subsidiary Global Cloud Xchange (GCX)  has announced a new so-called ‘Cloud and Fiber Initiative’ that aims to not only build a new subsea cable system, but also transform India into the central hub of the cloud ecosystem emerging in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

Key to the plan is a new 100G subsea cable system called Eagle, which will be four/six fiber pair systems with initial design capacity of 12-24 Tbps per fiber pair. More importantly, the Eagle system will land in the fastest growing key markets of Asia, Middle East and Europe.

The system comprises a 7,750-km segment running east from Mumbai via Thailand to Hong Kong, with landing points in Singapore and other branching units, and a 8,900-km western segment from Mumbai via the Middle East to Italy. GCX says the both routes will be the fastest routes linking India to Hong Kong, the Middle East and Europe.

GCX EAGLE submarine cable system
Image credit: GCX

The Eagle system will sport flexible landing station technology, allowing companies to rent and own subsea capacity from speeds of 10 Gbps to several 100s of Gbps, said Wilfred Kwan, chief operating officer of RCOM Enterprise and GCX.

“With flexible access speeds and open co-location, the system will also enable growing number of OTT start-ups, new generation carriers and smaller cloud operators to buy and rent fiber affordably in a scalable model,” Kwan said.

That’s the fiber part. The “cloud” part of the ‘Cloud and Fiber’ initiative is GCX’s Global Cloud Ecosystem that connects data centers and markets along the route into its India hub. The goal, says GCX chief marketing officer Lorain Wong, is to put India at the center of regional and global demand for cloud connectivity and services, enabling the country to deliver the infrastructure and bandwidth needed to support the next wave of economic growth driven by cloud.

“RCom/GCX has been involved with the Digital India initiative since its inception,” Wong said. “The ‘Cloud and Fiber Initiative’ is in response to key requirements in the marketplace, drive by explosive growth in cloud and infrastructure requirements by enterprise and OTT customers worldwide.”

The initiative takes advantage of India’s key strategic location in the global subsea cable world.

“New cables extending to the East and West from India will help to accommodate surging capacity demand and enhance network resiliency,” said Alan Mauldin, research director for TeleGeography.

Mauldin added that demand for international bandwidth connected to Asian countries is expected to increase over 10-fold between 2017 and 2023, while bandwidth linking Europe to the Middle East and Asian countries is forecasted to increase 7-fold during the same period.

Meanwhile, says Manoj Menon, managing director of Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, digital transformation is driving accelerated growth of cloud services in the Asia Pacific region. “China along with the emerging economies of India, Indonesia and Thailand are the front runners of this growth.”

All of this adds up to India being well placed to set itself up as the hub serving that demand, says Bill Barney, CEO of RCom and chairman and CEO of GCX.

“Nearly half the world’s population is reachable within a short distance from India’s borders, giving India a strategic edge in the new digital era,” he said. “The ‘Cloud and Fiber Initiative’ levels the playing field for India’s tech companies to compete in the new digital order and to play a pivotal role in the anticipated hyper growth of technology expansion across the Emerging Markets Corridor.”

Meanwhile, GCX says it will be building the Eagle system segment by segment to address high demand segments early, rather than waiting three or four years for the entire cable to be completed. GCX currently estimates the entire Eagle system will be deployed by the end of 2020. GCX says Eagle is being built in alignment with continuous upgrades on its existing global subsea systems, all of which are now 100G enabled.

GCX confirmed that it will invest an estimated $500 million over the next four years in the initiative.

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